The “Poor Thing”: The Cosmopolitan in Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things


A humanist politics sees its fulfilment in individual liberation. As Kant argued in “Idea of a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose”—a text I will examine later—the perfect operation of reason will result in autonomy. But, as Descartes had already argued, the animal needs to be excluded from this project of individual liberation because it acts without reason, that is, it acts automatically (139). Autonomy and automaticity structure the subject through the division between an intelligence inside and an outside mechanical body.

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